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  Jennifer Queen Of Snake
Year: 1978
Director: Brice Mack
Stars: Lisa Pelikan, Bert Convy, Nina Foch, Amy Johnston, John Gavin, Jeff Corey, Louise Hoven, Ray Underwood, Wesley Eure, Florida Friebus, Georganne LaPiere, Sally Pansing, Leslie King, Ruth Cox, Lillian Randolph
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jennifer Baylor (Lisa Pelikan) won a scholarship to this private school thanks to her hard work and excellent results, not, as is the case with just about every other girl there, because of of how much money her parents were prepared to put up for the privilege. But the school has to be seen to perform acts of charity, and so she was allowed in, yet she does not entirely fit in with her classmates, especially Sandra Tremayne (Amy Johnston), whose father is a senator tired of having to send her to a new school every year because she keeps getting kicked out. Sandra is up to her old tricks when she tries to frame Jennifer for cheating, but she will take things too far...

What do you get if you cross rat revenge movie Willard with psychic revenge movie Carrie? You get something like Jennifer, that's what, only you don't get anywhere near the success of those two, and a film that is dimly recalled by those who might have caught it on television over the years. Curiously, the star of this, Lisa Pelikan, went on to marry the star of Willard, Bruce Davison, but otherwise the effect of those two productions were quite far apart as far as success went, both artistic and financial. Here the snakes only appear intermittently, indeed from watching the first half hour of this you might not even be aware that there was any reptile involvement at all.

But there is, and it's because poor Jennifer was the daughter of a snake-charming preacher (Jeff Corey), who we see in flashback to a religious meeting showed his offspring the way to go to worship the Lord God above through the medium of slithery creatures. Now a teenager, she is not so keen to hark back to her previous minor celebrity in out there Christian cult circles, and only wishes to keep her head down and do her schoolwork to the best of her ability. Yes, like Carrie there's a theme of religious oppression bringing out the worst in people, but actually what this is more interested in is the division between the classes, with Jen the lower class waif and Sandra the rich bitch out to take her down.

As played by Johnston, an actress who could have had a successful career playing this type of role in eighties soaps if fate had decreed it, Sandra is the ideal boo-hiss villain for this kind of thing, practically leaning out of the screen to grab the viewer by the lapels and seething, "Come on, you know you want to hate me!" She manipulates everyone around her to go against Jennifer, and succeeds with the headmistress (Nina Foch) mainly because she glad to have Sandra's father money pouring in to the establishment to ensure the girl isn't expelled. As the story draws on, she resorts to increasingly illegal ways to get one up on her innocent target, even almost murdering her at one point.

The film spends so much time on seeing Jennifer victimised that you have to give it to the filmmakers, they may have been creating an imitation but nothing pushes an audience's buttons like seeing this kind of injustice meted out to a vulnerable character. Taking the customary bullies' excuse that her scapegoat is asking for such treatment, Sandra becomes relentless, going as far as getting her dimwit boyfriend to snap a photo of our heroine nude, and nailing a dead cat in her locker. Only one of her peers speaks out against this, Jane (Louise Hoven), and she ends up raped for not following her gang leader's line, but she does win an ally in Jennifer as a result. Turns out this is the best thing to have, because Little Miss Tremayne doesn't have snake powers, leading to a finale that looks as if it inspired the Doctor Who story Kinda in its bizarre climax. So if this isn't too accomplished otherwise, it does get you on the side of the underdog surprisingly effectively for a film with modest ambitions.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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